Road commissions keeping eye on budget, salt supply
Officials say salt prices are up about 15% from last year
MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — The rising cost of salt has county road commission officials keeping an eye on their supply for the season.
Tim Nestle, road superintendent manager with the Mecosta County Road Commission, said between the three county garages in Big Rapids, Remus and Morley, they have almost 1,700 tons of salt available.
He said the Mecosta County Road Commission uses a 50/50 mixture of salt and sand on major county roads which see a lot of traffic, but typically only use sand on the less-frequented roads.
“We don’t use salt on any other roads unless we get a bunch of ice, like from a freezing rain,” he said.
Part of the reason for this, Nestle said, is the high cost of salt versus sand.
“We are limited on our budget, and salt prices are up about 15% from last year,” he said.
According to Nestle, a ton of salt costs about $73, while a yard of sand — which is equivalent to slightly more than a ton — is only about $7.20.
He explained that as of the end of Dec. 2018, the road commission used about 800 tons of salt, while as of the middle of Dec. 2019, only about 300 tons had been used.
“We are doing a little bit better than last year,” Nestle said.
He said last winter that for the roughly 1,100 miles of county roads they service, the road commission used about 9,000 yards of sand and 1,600 tons of salt total.
In Osceola County, the road commission also is keeping an eye on increased salt prices.
Bill Huss, Osceola County Road Commission clerk, said they have about 1,300 tons of salt on hand.
He said the road salt is mixed with a screened sand in a 2-to-1 ratio of sand to salt, which is then stored ahead of any maintenance needs.
With 925 miles of county roads, of which about 290 miles are blacktop and require the use of salt and sand for winter maintenance, Huss said during the 2018-19 winter season, a little more than 3,400 tons of salt was used. He said this came at a cost of $212,000.
As local road commission officials continue to keep an eye on road conditions, Nestle said people need to be cautious of Michigan’s unpredictable winters.
“People need to drive for the conditions because the roads might not be clear of snow and ice all of the time,” he said.